Add SignalR to a Vue.js app

Add real-time communication to your Vue.js app with ASP.NET Core SignalR

Posted on July 28, 2020 11 minute read

Adding real-time communication to your web applications such online games, dashboards, and chat systems can greatly enhance the usability and interactivity of the app. Using WebSockets, your users see the most up-to-date information without having to manually refresh their browsers, or your application having to poll constantly for changes.

ASP.NET Core SignalR provides an API to allow server-to-client communication. By default, SignalR will use WebSockets but will gracefully fallback if the browser doesn’t support it. SignalR allows you to easily send messages to all clients at once, or send messages to individual users or groups.

In this post, we’ll look at how to get SignalR set up, and then how you can add it to your Vue.js application.

Setting up SignalR

For purposes of this post, I’m going to assume you have an API project already set up. Adding SignalR in an ASP.NET Core project is fairly straight forward. If you are targeting netcoreapp3.1, SignalR is included in the “meta” package and there is nothing else to install.

You’ll need to set up a “Hub” which is responsible for handling the socket connections with the clients. These can include both sending and receiving messages. One drawback to the traditional hubs is that they often have a lot of “magic strings.” These are often fragile and can lead to runtime errors. However, Hubs can be strongly-typed to help mitigate that risk. For purposes of this post, we’ll use a strongly-typed hub, but it is not required. Read more about strongly-type hubs.

When using a strongly-typed hub, you’ll need to create an interface that represents the client. Like any other interface in C#, it represents that contract of the messages and their parameters that can be sent. Below is an example of my IGameClient:


public interface IGameClient
{
    Task GameStarted(string gameCode);
    Task PlayerJoined(string playerName); 
}

Now that we have our client interface, we need to create a Hub. Here’s what that looks like:


public class GameHub : Hub<IGameClient>
{
    private readonly IRepository<Game> _gameRepository;
    private readonly IRepository<Player> _playerRepository;

    public GameHub(IRepository<Game> gameRepository,
        IRepository<Player> playerRepository)
    {
        _gameRepository = gameRepository;
        _playerRepository = playerRepository;           
    }

    public async Task GameCreated(string gameCode)
    {
        await Groups.AddToGroupAsync(Context.ConnectionId, gameCode);
    }

    public async Task PlayerJoined(string gameCode, string playerName)
    {
        var game = await GetGameByCode(gameCode);
        var player = new Player
        {
            GameId = game.Id,
            Name = playerName,
            JoinedOn = DateTime.UtcNow,
            IsHost = false
        };

        await _playerRepository.CreateAsync(player);

        await Groups.AddToGroupAsync(Context.ConnectionId, gameCode);
        await Clients.OthersInGroup(gameCode).PlayerJoined(playerName);
    }
}

You’ll notice that the GameHub class inherits from Hub<IGameClient> - this is what’s strongly typing our hub to the interface we defined earlier. If we were not making a strongly-typed hub, we would just inherit from Hub instead.

You’ll also see that we have a constructor, with a few repository dependencies. A hub can have dependencies injected into it, just like any other controller or service. This is helpful if you need to persist data to a database or other store.

Following, we have two methods, which correlate to our IGameClient interface. We’ll look at the PlayerJoined method. First, we’re getting the game info by it’s code (method redacted for brevity) and then we are creating a Player object and persisting it to our data store (in this case that’s CosmosDB). SignalR has the concept of groups, so we are adding this player to the group for this game and finally notifying all of the other players that the player has joined.

The last thing we need to do for now is to wire up our Hub in Startup.cs. Add the following line to the ConfigureServices method. I typically like to do this just after services.AddControllers() (or MVC):

services.AddSignalR();

Finally, we need to add the SignalR endpoint, by modifying UseEndpoints to look like this:


app.UseEndpoints(endpoints =>
{
    endpoints.MapControllers();
    endpoints.MapHub<GameHub>("/gamehub"); // The URL passed can be named whatever you'd like
});

Adding SignalR to Vue

Adding SignalR to Vue was a little trickier than the server-side, at least for me. I wasn’t sure how to get started, such as “where do I start the connection?” And “where do I listen for these messages?” After some brief Google searches and reading a few blog posts, I found a package on NPM, vue-signalr. The documentation makes it a little hard to get started so it look a little playing around to get things figured out. (Ps once I figure things out more clearly, I plan on submitting a PR to update the docs.)

Once you’ve installed the package, open up main.js and add the following:

import VueSignalR from '@latelier/vue-signalr'

Vue.use(VueSignalR, 'https://localhost:5001/gamehub')

The URL shown above is the URL to your API (or backend project) with the URL you defined as the endpoint for the hub.

Next, you’ll need to start the socket connection. For now, I chose to do this in my App.vue component, but I may move it as I think it is better suited in a more “scoped” component (App.vue is used as the “base” for all Vue URL routing).

export default {
  created () {
    this.$socket.start({
      log: true // Logging is optional but very helpful during development
    })
  },
  sockets: {
    PlayerJoined (data) {
      // this has to be here even though it's not being used?
      // otherwise other events don't actually fire
    }
  }
}

The Vue library adds an additional option, sockets that you can add to each component to get access to the socket events that can be triggered. The alternative to this would be:

this.$socket.on('PlayerJoined', (data) => { });
// or
Vue.prototype.$socket.on('PlayerJoined' (data) => { });

One caveat I learned here (a very important one) is that you’ll need to define whatever socket messages you’ll be listening for in this file. They can be blank as mine is above, but if they aren’t there, none of the components seem to get the messages. The names of these messages match the names of the methods defined in your Hub.

Now that the setup is out of the way, we can start listening to socket messages for the events we care about and update our UI accordingly. This is fairly straightforward. You can use either syntax I noted above to do this; I’ll show the one I’m primarily using in my app:

// additional component code redacted for brevity
created () {
    const that = this

    this.$socket.on('PlayerJoined', function (data) {
        that.$store.dispatch('game/playerJoined', { playerName: data })
    })
},

Here, we are listening for the PlayerJoined message and then dispatch an action to our Vuex store with the player’s name. We could similarly directly update our UI instead of dispatching an action.

Sending messages (or “invoking”) is similar to receiving, just a slightly different syntax. In the following example, I am redirecting the user to a new page after the invocation is successful. You could easily submit a follow-up request or prompt the user for more information. Ideally, if you are using Vuex, you might want to invoke the request as an action on your store, instead of directly from the component.

// additional component code redacted for brevity
methods: {
    joinGame () { // triggered by a form submit
        this.$socket.invoke('PlayerJoined', data.gameCode, data.playerName).then(() => {
            this.$router.push(`/game/${this.gameCode}`)
        })
    }
}

Summary

And there you have it; you can now enhance your Vue app’s connectivity by adding SignalR WebSockets. I am currently trying to figure out how I can better integrate the sockets with my Vuex store, so that I don’t have to listen for messages in components just to call an action on a store. Do you use SignalR or other sockets in your Vue application? Have any tips for things we could improve here or better integrate with Vuex? Leave a comment below!

Header photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash